Author Note: I hope you've enjoyed my first venture into the One Piece fandom. Thank you for reading.



Chapter 8


Playing pack mule was usually a grueling and highly frustrating experience. Now that things had change between him and the spastic cook...

"Oi! What the fuck are you doing?! I just bought that apron! You're gonna ruin it lettin it drag the ground, dumb ass!"

Zoro could easily say that it was exactly the same. "Back off, shit cook! I'm already carting these fuckin heavy crates for you! Carry your own damn apron!" he growled while trying to get a better hold on the three crates that he was attempting to manage blindly. "Dammit, I cant see where I'm going!"

"You don't need to see where you're going." Sanji called out from where he was walking behind the swordsman. "I've got your shitty direction down. You get lost every time you follow someone. If ya can't see, then you need me to tell you where to go. This way I can make sure you don't wander off."

He would have argued if it didn't make sense. Still, Zoro wasn't one to back down. "What the fuck ever. How much shit am I going to have to lug around for you? And why the hell are you not carrying anything?" He nearly had to strain his neck to look back at the smug blonde walking behind him. "I know you're a little chicken shit wuss, but you can at least carry some of your own fuckin shopping."

Sanji was silent for a moment while he lit up a cigarette, but once it was lit he promptly flipped off his companion. "Fuck you. I'm not about to get splinters from those shitty crates. You're the one that has elephant hide on your hands." Suddenly a wicked grin formed on his face and he leaned in a bit. "Tell me, was it your katana that earned you those callouses, or did you work them up handling your fourth sword a bit too vigorously?"

The blatant dirty question nearly made Zoro trip over his own feet. "Dammit! Don't do that or I'll drop this shit and kick your ass!" he hissed, now glad the wooden crates hid his slightly heated cheeks.

A bright laugh bubbled from Sanji's chest as he lightly pinched the blushing cheeks. "Who knew you could be so adorable?"

"You're pushing it, bastard!" Zoro barked, trying to bite at the hands messing with him.

Quickly pulling away from the snapping teeth, Sanji snickered while stuffing his hands into his pockets. "Tsk tsk. You're not supposed to bite the hand that feeds you."

Zoro was about to just fling back another insult, but his eyes caught a glimpse of the mark he made on the blonde's neck peeking out from the collar of the green shirt. The sight made the insult die on his tongue as his lips curled into a smirk. "Alright. That mean I can bite other parts instead?"

Sanji hadn't expected the light innuendo from the moss head, but it encouraged him greatly. "Heh. If you're a good pack mule, I may be willing to negotiate." He placed his hands on the broad shoulders and turned Zoro's entire body slightly to the left. "Merry's straight ahead. Keep walking and you'll go right up the gangplank."

It bothered the swordsman that he was having to rely only on the curly cook's word that he was going the right direction, but he knew that the spastic blonde wouldn't ruin his precious kitchen inventory for the sake of a prank. It was one of the few perks of being the cook's pack mule. 'As long as I'm carrying his shit he won't try anything.' It was valuable information that he would have to put to use in the future. 'If I hold his stuff hostage he might back off.. As long as I have a way to keep him from getting it back.' He knew the moment Sanji retrieved anything that was taken from him, the culprit would have a foot shaped hole in their gut soon after.

One thing was for certain. This strange new relationship was definitely going to keep Zoro on his toes. The thought actually made a tiny smirk creep onto his lips. The way it seemed so far, he hadn't lost anything from their previous nakama relationship. They still fought. They still argued. They still hurled one insult after another. When Sanji had made his farewell breakfast for Ojiisan, he still bitched and kicked Zoro for being an uncultured slob at the table.

At one point they almost squared off right in the kitchen before Ojiisan promptly whacked the back of the blonde head with a plate. The old man firmly stated that he wasn't going to have his last masterpiece punched right after he made it. It was almost comical how the cook had to back down and grumbled an apology. Zoro mercifully decided not to provoke the cook too much to avoid causing any damage to the healing tattoo.

The moment Sanji said farewell to Ojiisan and his grandson with a low bow of thanks, the blonde curtain of hair fell back into place over the left eye. It was surprising how well the pale strands hid the tattoo, but it also made Zoro feel a faint pang of loss. He liked simply looking into that swirling mass of blue. But it also made him feel a bit proud. To watch Sanji gush over the various vendors and flirt with anything wearing a skirt knowing that he was the only one that knew what was really behind that gooey facade. He knew the depths of Sanji's dream. He knew what Sanji hid from the rest of the world. 'He trusted all of that to me..'

That thought made that fuzzy feeling linger. He was starting to like that feeling. He would die before he would admit that, but the feeling was steadily growing stronger with every tease and every intimate gesture tossed his way.

He came very close to simply caving in when Sanji forcefully tugged him behind a building as they were walking through town. Zoro never had a chance to protest when that damn pervy cook kissed him. It was a kiss that made Zoro's heart pound and his toes curl. A kiss that left him breathless and blinking in a hapless state of shock as the bastard stood there with that infuriating smug look. That look that told him exactly what was in store for him very soon. The look that made him want to roll over and surrender to whatever deviant sex driven thoughts that were swirling in Sanji's filthy mind.

That look the fucker was giving him right now. He couldn't look back, but he knew Sanji was staring at him. Conniving. Plotting. Thinking dirty and obscene thoughts about what to do to him. About how to make him writhe and beg.

Zoro's eye twitched hard. "Fuck..."

"Maybe later." was Sanji's quick answer.

'I knew it!' Zoro tried to scare the heated blushed away from his face with a harsh growl. "Fuckin bastard.. Quit messing with me out in the open!" 'When I can't easily deck you for it..' he added silently.

Sanji chuckled as he lightly poked between the broad shoulders. "Easy. The others can probably hear you. We're supposed to keep this to ourselves for now. Remember?"

The coy question made Zoro grind his teeth slightly. "I never thought it was possible, but you're even more of an asshole than you were before."

"Ha, you should be glad I don't hate you. Your head would implode from my true capacity of assholeness." Sanji countered. His hand settled on Zoro's shoulder and pulled him to a stop. "Hold it. There are a few broken bottles in front of you."

Zoro didn't resist as the blonde guided him around the scattered broken glass. From how thick that glass was as he caught a glimpse of it, it very well could trip him up or slice into the soles of his boots. When he was nudged to continue walking forward, Zoro chewed at inside of his lip.

He could honestly say that he was put at ease knowing that Sanji was watching his back. Differences between them would never change, and that also comforted him. Just having the cook there made him feel that everything was okay. As long as that shitty smug bastard was there, everything would be fine. 'Means I have to make sure he sticks around.'

At that moment his boots made contact with the gangplank. He easily climbed the plank, and he soon heard the voices of his crew.

"Sanji! Where have you been?! I'm hungry!" Luffy immediately stated as he nearly tackled the cook.

"Oi! Luffy, quit wrapping around me like a fuckin python!" Sanji yelped as he tried to keep from falling face first onto the deck.

The rubbery limbs didn't retract, but Luffy gave his best pouty face as he squeezed tighter. "But I missed you! I had to eat shitty Usopp food yesterday 'cause Robin and Chopper wouldn't let me near the storage room. And Nami wouldn't let me buy anything in town because I'm already a... Um.." The captain glanced back at the redhead approaching them on deck. "What was it again, Nami?"

Nami rolled her eyes and folded her arms over her chest. "A bottomless pit of financial ruin. Until we haul in another big score, we're going to have to watch what we spend. For now it's supplies only." She glanced towards the blonde cook and frowned slightly. "Have you gotten everything you need yet, Sanji?"

Still trying to pry his captain off of him, Sanji met her gaze. "Nearly. I'm about to go out and hit the produce vendors. I need Chopper to help me cart everything back... Dammit, Luffy! I'll make you something, just let go!" he growled when he was still struggling to stay upright.

"No! As my cook, I have decided that I will be near you at all times no matter what!" Luffy declared with a wide grin. However his grin was short lived when a hand grabbed hold of his ear.

"Let him go, Luffy! Sanji's got work to do!" Nami said sharply as she forcefully pulled the captain off the cook. As she promptly drug Luffy away, Nami looked back at the blonde watching her curiously. "Let me know if you need anything, Sanji."

It was as close to an actual apology as Sanji would get, so he slapped on his wide grin. "Of course, Nami-swan~!"

The moment she saw the first pink heart float in over a week, Nami smiled brightly before happily dragging the whining Luffy away.

"But Naaamiii! I'm so hungry..."

"No food for you until you finish cleaning that mess you made of the foresail! I can't believe Usopp let you have paint.." she grumbled loudly as she headed for the foremast.

"But I just wanted to add Chibi Captain Usopp to our flag!" Luffy protested loudly.

When they heard that, both Sanji and Zoro shot their attention to the foresail. There in bright orange paint was a horribly disfigured scribble that looked like a strange combination of a bird and a manatee. On seeing it, they both felt their eyes twitching hard.

"I'm gonna kill that fuckin bird.." Zoro growled and he sat the crates down on deck.

Sanji was quick to lightly kick at the swordsman's boot to get his attention. "Oi, I told you to leave that shitty chicken to me. I'll have it dealt with before the end of the day."

"End of the day?" Zoro repeated on a snort. "I've been trying to get that stupid bird for a week. How the hell are you going to get rid of it by the end of the day?"

"Easy." Sanji blew a ring of smoke that encircled Zoro's face while flicking his spent cigarette overboard. "By being my usual fuckin awesome self. Now you stay here like a good little guard dog. After I get Chopper, I'll be back in a couple of hours. At that time you can consider your bird problem officially over." he stated like it was an undisputed fact.

Zoro's eyes narrowed, but he was soon glaring at the cook hard. "You don't have anything planned. You got no clue what you're going to do about that damn bird."

Sanji quirked up his visible brow at the accusation, but after one quick look to see that no one was paying attention to them, he leaned in to whisper into Zoro's ear. "You'll just have to wait and see, Marimo... But when I do, I expect your first assignment as my permanent footstool to be kissing my feet. Slowly." he added while letting his own tongue trace along the three piercings.

The heated words made a faint shiver shoot down Zoro's spine. However instead of letting his hesitation get in the way, he decided to counter. "Fine. If you don't get rid of that bird by sunset, I expect you to lick my swords clean." A wicked smirk tugged onto his face as he leaned in a bit closer. "All four of them."

The visible blue eye widened slightly before a purring chuckle left Sanji's lips. "My my.. You're a quick study." He smoothly slipped his hand to the hilt of Wadou and let his fingers curl around it. "You've got a deal. You better be ready when I win." With a soft swipe of his tongue across the three earrings just to hear them chime, Sanji pulled away and turned to head below deck.

Zoro stood still and watched him leave. His eyes lingered on the slight sway of his slim hips and the way the sunlight caught his hair. He could easily remember how soft that pale hair felt against his face that morning. The way his leg was hooked over that slender hip. The feel of that warm body nestled against his own.

He was definitely falling for the bastard. "Eh... At least it'll make things a bit more interesting." Zoro finally conceded.

A shout from the foresail had Zoro looking in time to see Nami pelting Luffy with one of her shoes. The reason being that Luffy apparently had a sudden urge to paint a mustache on the bird manatee. When Luffy only started cackling with laughter at the navigator's rants, Zoro rolled his eyes and looked up to the cloudless sky. "Nut jobs. Fucking nut jobs. The lot of them." But even so, he couldn't think of one place he'd rather be.

As he was looking up, he noticed that someone was perched in the crowsnest. Focusing on it, he saw Robin looking straight at him with a strange little smile on her face. Soon realizing that the woman must have witnessed the exchange he had with the cook, he glanced away as his embarrassment returned for a brief moment. "So much for keeping this private..." he muttered before moving quickly for the galley.

He still had guard dog duty to focus his mind on.


Placing his hand on the fogged glass, Zoro wiped away the condensation in order to see his reflection in the bathroom mirror. He ran a small towel over his short hair for a moment as he regarded himself carefully. The past hour was spent doing situps on the galley floor as he usually did whenever Sanji wasn't around, but around rep 274 he didn't really have the drive for more. His mind kept wondering how the hell the idiot cook was going to get rid of that rooster.

So far he hadn't seen it since he returned, but he knew the little fucker was out there. Waiting.

So instead he decided to take up some time with a bath. A long bath. The entire time he could only think of that morning spent with the blonde in his arms. Almost to the point of getting a little too excited, but he held off from having the obligatory erotic interlude of a little self gratification. That always seemed a bit cheap to him. If he wanted someone, he would rather have them there. Plus he seriously doubted he could imagine anything that would do the cook any justice. No, he wanted Sanji very present.

Now as he was drying himself off, he wondered how much longer the cook would be. And when the mouthy fucker would implement his so called brilliant plan.

"He doesn't have a plan... He never had a plan. He's just blowing smoke like he always does." he said to his reflection, even though the expression on his face didn't seem as convinced.

Deciding to return to the galley, Zoro dried off and tugged on another pair of his black pants. He slung the towel he was using around his shoulders and headed out of the bathroom. He made his way quietly topside, slowly moving around every turn. He knew that bird was biding its time, as paranoid as that sounded. For it to go this long without making its presence known had Zoro on edge. It felt like the little shit was planning something.

'Dammit.. I'm going nuts... That stupid bird can't plan anything... It's just an annoying pile of feathers.' However his attempts at reassuring himself weren't very convincing. Something just wasn't right.

On reaching the galley door, Zoro was a bit startled to find Robin blocking it. She was leaning against it in a casual pose with her arms folded over her ample chest. Her eyes were closed, but there was a small knowing smile curling her pale lips.

The sight told him immediately that she had seen Sanji and himself speaking closely on deck. 'Hell, probably heard everything too..' He wasn't sure if he was comfortable with that. It wasn't the cook's fault, but it made Zoro uneasy. Especially when he still recalled the brief conversation they had about the archaeologist. 'Sanji found a bad omen that hints towards her...' He was never all that superstitious, but he did take heed to anything that wasn't adding up correctly.

"Need something?" he asked calmly as he stopped in front of her.

Robin's eyes slowly opened and focused on the swordsman. She seemed to examine him a bit before her smile twitched wider. "Just curious. You know how I like a good puzzle. The one I've been watching for the past week has been most entertaining."

The not so cryptic words had Zoro's eyes narrowing slightly. "I never took you for the nosey type. Is there some reason why you're watching so closely?" he asked bluntly. Subtle was never a strength for him. Took too damn long.

Robin hummed in amusement as she pointed to the door behind her. "Let's talk a bit more privately."

"Fine." When she stepped aside, Zoro opened the galley door and stepped in. He didn't bother to look back as he moved straight for the table where a few pieces were left of a tray of cheeses Sanji had prepared before he left. He popped a cube of pepperjack into his mouth as the door quietly closed behind him. "So what is it that's got you so curious?" he started out to get it over with.

Not surprised by the bum rush she was receiving, Robin simply leaned against the inside of the door. "I find it interesting how the two of you interact. I have since I met you. I had a feeling that there was something else behind all the bravado, but I never expected this."

Zoro glanced back over his shoulder and frowned. "You got a problem with it?"

"Hm, hardly. It makes observing the two of you all the more fascinating." Robin nearly purred out.

There was a strange smirk on her face that Zoro wasn't sure if he liked. "Observing, huh? So you're not going to tell the others?"

The raven head shook. "That is not my place. I'm perfectly capable of keeping secrets."

Somehow Zoro still wasn't satisfied. "Hn.. That mean I'll have to wonder if you've got an eyeball peeking in here when that blonde idiot is with me?" he asked with a sarcastic glare.

A wicked expression fell over her face as she gave a careless shrug. "I did say I like to observe." Robin replied smoothly.

Zoro felt his eye twitch at the thought. "And if I said I don't like being watched?"

"Well, you won't know one way or the other, now will you, Swordsman-san?" was the woman's coy reply.

He wanted to be pissed. He wanted to, but the more he thought about it, the more he remembered touching Sanji in front of that mirror at Ojiisan's. 'Knowing that someone else is watching...' That thought intrigued him a bit.

Which irritated him even more. "Dammit.. That bastard is a bad influence on me." he grumbled before plopping down on a bench.

Able to guess what was provoking the reaction, Robin gave a humming laugh while approaching the table. "I wouldn't say that. From what I've seen, he's been taking very good care of you..." She trailed off when she noticed something sparkle on the floor next to a few lingering sacks of potatoes. "What's this..." She moved around the table and knelt down at the sacks. There her long fingers picked up a gold ring.

Seeing the ring, Zoro quickly remembered he had stashed it under the potato sack he had been using as a pillow. "Ah.. That..." he muttered while looking away.

His strange behavior had Robin quirking up a brow. "So it's yours?"


She stood up with the ring and took it back to the swordsman. "I don't recall you ever wearing it."

Taking it when it was held out to him, Zoro looked at it for a moment in the palm of his hand. "I haven't. I got it a few days ago." He knew that she was bound to ask where since they've been at sea for the past three weeks, so decided to just get on with it. "He found it in that fish I caught a few days ago. Said it was mine since I caught the fish."

"Ah. That makes sense. It's very nice. That stone matches the color of his eyes. And the gold is close to his hair color." Robin commented, perching herself on the end of the table.

When it was brought to his attention, Zoro frowned slightly. 'Gold and blue... A circle means eternity. Something valuable... That I'll have for eternity...' "Sanji said that there's a legend that anything found in a fish's stomach was a fortune for the person that caught it."

"That's interesting..." Robin took note of the way Zoro was seriously pondering something as he looked at the ring. The faint tension she saw made her smile. "Do you like the fortune that ring tells for you?"

Zoro picked up the ring from his palm and turned it over a few times. The blue stone sparkled, which only reminded him of the eyes that were haunting him since the night before. The way they sparkled when the cook was being particularly evil towards him. The way they locked with his own when they were alone. The way they dilated when he would trail his fingers down his spine.

"Yeah." Zoro placed the ring on the middle finger of his right hand again. "I do."

Robin's smile grew when it was clear that Zoro had made a decision. She was about to speak when a shout was heard from the deck.

"YAY! Sanji's back! When do we eat?" Luffy's voice cackled excitedly.

On hearing that Robin slid off the table and moved for the door. "Shall we go welcome him back?"

Zoro snorted and folded his arms over his chest. "I'm not going to welcome him home like a puppy." he muttered loudly.

"It's another three hours before sunset. I would think that you would want to watch him like a hawk for when he acts on his plan."

Baited so skillfully, Zoro stiffened for a moment before he stood up rigidly. "Damn nosey bitch." he growled while stomping towards the door.

Robin smiled cheerfully and opened the door for him. She held back a giggle when she was glared at, but was quick to follow him.

On deck Luffy was bouncing around covered in paint from where he had to fix the foresail. Twice. "Saaanjiii! Gimme meeaat!" he commanded at the top of his lungs.

However Zoro glanced around the dock without spotting the blonde anywhere. "I don't see him..."

"That's because Luffy's looking through my telescope." Usopp said while scratching the back of his head. He pointed towards the main street that went into town. "Sanji's still in town. He's heading this way, but it'll be a few minutes before he's actually here."

Zoro stared at the sniper for a moment before slapping his palm to his forehead. "This is ridiculous..."

"SANJI! As your captain, I order you to feed me now!" Luffy shouted while still looking through the telescope.

"Sanji can't hear you, idiot!" Nami hissed when she noticed a few dock workers stopping and staring at the spastic captain.

Luffy didn't pay any heed to the others present. "SANJI! FEEEED MEEE!"

Before anyone could reprimand him further, a shout echoed in the distance. "SHUT THE HELL UP! I'LL FEED YOU WHEN I'M FUCKING READY TO!"

"Wahh! Long distance scary Sanji!" Luffy yelped as he ran to hide behind Zoro.

Zoro was able to catch the telescope that had fallen from his captain's grasp before it hit the ground. He then held it up to his eye and looked for the pissed chef. It didn't take him long to see the puffing smoke stack that was Sanji as he stormed his way towards dock with Chopper towing the loaded cart hesitantly following him. The sight made a wide smirk pull over her lips. "Looks like ya pissed him off, Luffy. Might want to think of a way to get back on his good side. Especially if you want to be fed."

"Waah! I need to be fed! What should I do?" Luffy asked desperately, clinging to his first mate tight.

"Perhaps helping him load everything onboard without breaking, or opening, or swallowing a single thing?" Robin offered while patting the top of Luffy's head.

Luffy's jaw immediately dropped. "No way! That's impossible!"

"You wanna eat, don't you?" Zoro asked lightly. It was amusing how much fear a pissed cook could stir within people.

The captain's lower lip quivered faintly for a moment in a pout. When his stomach suddenly let out a gurgling growl, Luffy's jaw set and he took a deep breath to center himself. "Right..." He released Zoro and got into a firm stance on the deck. "Those supplies are gonna be put away perfectly! Sanji will be happy and then feed me until I explode! Yosh!"

When they saw that Luffy was about to charge off the deck and actually run to Sanji to gather the supplies that were still a good half mile away, they were all quick to grab hold of him. "Captain, why don't you just wait here until Chef-san gets here?" Robin suggested, keeping four of her arms locking up Luffy's rubbery legs.

"I hate waiting!" Luffy grumbled as another pout formed.

Nami rolled her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. "It won't kill you. Go play with Chibi Captain Usopp until he gets here."

On hearing the blasted name, Zoro growled loudly. "Keep that fuckin bird away from me!"

The fact that was Zoro's automatic response to the rooster puzzled everyone. "Why don't you like Chibi Captain Usopp?" Luffy asked with wide curious eyes.

"Because it's fuckin evil! If I see one more person get all bubbly over that damn bird I am going to crack." Zoro threatened, his teeth bared and fists clenched.

A bit startled at how much anger was on the swordsman's face, everyone took a little step back. "Damn, Zoro.. It's just a little rooster. You're starting to get a little carried away with the paranoia." Usopp muttered, only to shrink back when a heated glare was fixed on him.

Somewhat satisfied that the sniper was quaking in fear, Zoro snorted and took a long look at everyone. "I'm letting you know now. If I catch that bird, it's dead. Keep it away from me if you're gonna treat it like a pet."

The grim words hung in the air for a moment as a tension formed, but it was immediately cut apart by the sound of feet hitting the gangplank. "Goddammit, Luffy! I was close to talking a cute vendor into cutting me a deal when you started shouting!" Sanji soon appeared on deck with large bag filled with fresh baguettes held in his left arm.

The way everyone was standing in such a tense posture was confusing, but the moment they looked towards him they all seemed to hold their breath in apprehension. Their eyes all grew wide and were locked down at Sanji's feet.

"What are you staring at? Did I step in something?" Sanji looked down and was instantly caught in a wide eyed blank stare. "What the..?" There standing barely a foot away was the black and tan rooster. "This... Is it? This is the bird that you guys have been gushing over?" he asked slowly while crouching down to get a closer look at it.

"Um.. Yeah.. Sanji, this is Chibi Captain Usopp..." Usopp introduced hesitantly.

Sanji frowned slightly as he examined the tiny bird. The bird was simply staring quietly at him with its head tilted slightly in confusion. "Well... It certainly looks like Usopp... I was expecting something a bit bigger... Thing looks underfed..." he muttered, his hand already reaching for the bread he had in the bag. He tore off a tip of one of the loaves and crumbled it up in front of the rooster. As the rooster began pecking at the breadcrumbs, Sanji hummed thoughtfully and stood up. "I guess he's not that bad... Kinda cute in a weird scrawny sort of way."

Startled that Sanji seemed to like the bird, the rest of the crew uneasily looked towards the swordsman. Zoro was staring wide eyed at the scene playing out in front of him. 'There's no way.. There's no fuckin way he actually likes that little shit!' But the words being growled inside of his mind couldn't reach his lips. He felt frozen to the spot. Like he was under some wicked spell that was preventing him from stopping this.

His eyes were locked on the bird happily pecking away at the breadcrumbs, but for a brief moment the bird glanced back at Zoro. In that split instant Zoro saw those evil eyes narrow as they glowed red again. 'That bird! It's doing this! Of all the shitty stunts! It's trying to take Sanji from me!' He tried everything to say something. Growl, move his fingers, anything to stop this. All he could do was watch helplessly as the fuckin bird moved closer to nuzzle Sanji's leg.

The act had Sanji chuckling softly as he reached for a little more bread. "You're pretty friendly. Guess you're still hungry too. Here ya go." He crumbled up the bread and tossed it down to the bird. As the rooster hopped around to peck at the crumbs, Sanji smiled and took a step back. "Lively little guy... Yeah.. I suppose Chibi Captain Usopp is okay by me."

The moment the blonde actually said the evil bird's name, Zoro felt crushed. It was over. The last person in his corner was stolen away. The one person he wanted at his side more than anyone had slipped away. 'Sanji...'

Unaware of his comrade's breaking heart, Sanji tossed down another handful of crumbs a little bit behind the bird. The rooster turned to get at the pile of bread, showing its long tail feathered rear to the chef. The moment the bird had his back turned to him, a wide sadistic grin formed over Sanji's face. "Cock a doodle fuckin doo, ya shitty bird." In the blink of an eye, Sanji reared back his right foot and plowed it forward right into the rooster's ass.

The already wide eyes seemed to almost pop out of the bird's head as it gave a squawk that made everyone cringe and clutch at their ears. It was cut short when it was launched high into the air and sailed out over into the open ocean.

Sanji was still grinning as he held his hand over his eye to block the sun while trying to trace the flapping speck heading towards the horizon. "Fuck yeah, that got some distance. Hope Chicken little can swim. Ha!" he cackled before turning for the galley.

Shock and alarm was the only way to describe the slack jawed expression that the others were sporting. After a few seconds, Usopp shook out of his daze and glared teary eyed at the cook. "Why did you do that to poor Chibi Captain Usopp?!"

Sanji didn't bother to look back as he opened the door to his kitchen. "I told you that I was gonna get rid of that bird if you let it near me." As he stepped inside, he glanced back at his crew watching him. "What? At least I fed the little fucker first. Dinner will be ready in an hour. Load up everything for me, please and thank you."

With that the galley door was shut.

Then there was silence.

"Heh... Heheh... HAHAHAHA!" Free from whatever spell was placed on him, Zoro threw back his head in a cackling laughter. "I take back all the mean shit I've ever said about curly brow! That was great!"

"But what about Chibi Captain Usopp?!" Usopp cried out as he rushed to the port side railing. When he couldn't see beak nor feather, the sniper looked towards the captain. "Luffy! What are we gonna do?!"

Placing his hand to his chin in thought, Luffy closed his eyes and hummed. "Hmm.. Alright, I've got it."


Luffy lifted his head and clapped his hands together eagerly. "If I can load up all the supplies quick enough, Sanji might cook me extra meat for dinner! Chopper! Get into your big burly lifty form! We need to work double time!" he called out to the traumatized deer still attached to the supply cart.

"Wah! Yes! Double time!" Chopper repeated as he tried to free himself from the cart.

Devastated that his captain's stomach so readily took the place of the rooster's memory, Usopp fell to his knees on deck and slung an arm over his face. "I see how it is! So easily you forsake a comrade! Poor Chibi Capain Usopp has been left to die by such uncaring souls!" he wailed dramatically.

"Usopp, what's done is done. It would have been too much hassle to keep that rooster anyway." Nami stated while nudging the overreacting man with her knee. "It's probably better this way."

Robin leaned in closer to the still sniffling sniper and poked at the long nose. "Chef-san bought a case of a new kind of pepper. It's supposed to be the hottest pepper known in the grand line. Maybe if you help out he'll let you try some for your pepper stars." she said just to entice him.

The thought of improving one of his inventions had Usopp raising his head curiously. "A new kind of pepper?"

The raven haired woman nodded with a smile. "That's right. The vendor said that just the smell of it will bring tears to anyone close enough. Chef-san got it to experiment with." She leaned in closer to whisper into his ear. "Just imagine wielding Ultimate Super Pepper Stars in the next battle. The marines will quake in fear of the sound of your name. Captain Usopp." she purred just to entice him.

Those already wide eyes grew even wider as the thought occurred to him. Shooting to his feet in an instant, Usopp clenched his fists and raised them in the air. "Yosh! I, Captain Usopp, will be invincible! Make way, Luffy!" Usopp cackled as he charged forward to help with the supplies.

While the three more excitable men of their crew were busy with that, Nami looked over at Robin with a wide smirk. "That was evil. I had no idea you were so manipulative."

Robin gave a slight shrug as she placed her hands on her hips. "I do what I can." Her dark eyes glanced over to the swordsman as that knowing smile curled her lips. "I believe you have a bet to settle, Swordsman-san." she reminded with a coy wink.

Instead of annoyed like he thought he'd be, Zoro gave a soft snort of amusement. "Yeah.. Dammit, he'll never let me forget this." he groaned before forcing himself to head towards the galley.

"Bet? What bet?" Nami asked with a tilt of her head.

"They bet on who would be able to get rid of the rooster first." Robin explained at least half way honestly. She wasn't about to ruin her favorite pastime by being a gossip.

At the galley door, Zoro gave a firm knock. "Oi! Lemme in."

"It's not locked." was the reply he heard from the other side.

Quickly letting himself in, Zoro found Sanji setting out roasting pans and pots for easy reach as he started dinner. Surprised that he wasn't immediately attacked by that smug grin, Zoro closed the door and locked it behind him. He leaned back against it and quietly watched the chef work. The tension that had been locked within the thin frame seemed close to gone. His hands were moving more fluidly, and his shoulders were more relaxed.

Things were back to normal.

Except for one last bit of business. "Well?" Zoro prompted when the blonde had yet to speak.

"Well what?" Sanji asked without turning away from the pan he was wiping out.

Frowning slightly, Zoro pushed away from the door and approached the table. "Aren't you going to brag? Flaunt your victory in my face?"

Sanji traded the pan for an onion that was waiting for him on the chopping board. "Should I?"

The flippant way the cook was behaving was quickly confusing and frustrating the swordsman. "Normally you would have driven me insane by now with it." When all he received in reply was a faint 'hm' Zoro gave a slight growl and moved closer to the blonde. "What's your problem? You won. You won the bet. You knocked that damn bird to the next island. Why are you acting like you've lost?"

"I'm waiting to see if I did." Sanji answered calmly as he diced the onion with a practiced ease.

"What the hell are you talking about? You won the bet. What do you think you've lost?" Zoro asked, taking hold of the slim shoulders firmly.

Sanji paused in his motions and glanced back. His visible eye was darker than usual. Apprehensive. "You." he replied without hesitation.

"Me?" Zoro blinked for a moment at a total lost. Concern suddenly mixed with his confusion as he forced the blonde to face him. He placed his hands on the thin arms and looked seriously into the visible eye. "What do you mean?"

"It's over." Sanji answered, posture deceptively calm. "Everyone will probably be totally over that bird by morning. You don't have to stay around me anymore. Things can go back to normal."

Unable to believe what he was hearing, Zoro felt his jaw drop slightly as he attempted to make sense of this. "I.. I don't understand.. I thought you wanted this..." he whispered, hands gripping a bit tighter to the cook's shoulders.

The grip was almost painful, but Sanji made no move to pull away. "I do. However you haven't given me an answer. This is your chance to just let all of this drop. To back away before things go too far."

A clean break. That's what was being offered. Zoro could walk out now and everything would be over. Things would return to how they were before any of this started. They would go back to barely tolerating one another. Burying the fleeting memories of the past week under mountains of denial and bravado.

"My answer.." Zoro's right hand lifted and tenderly brushed the blonde hair away from the vibrant ink that surrounded the perpetually hidden eye. He looked at the visual embodiment of Sanji's dream for a moment as a smile curled his lips. "My answer is this..." Taking hold of the pale chin, Zoro closed the spaced between them in a soft kiss. The lean body against him grew rigid for a brief moment, but barely a second passed before those long arms locked tight around him.

Lips nipped and parted in order to taste one another for a long moment before Sanji finally pulled away. He gasped softly for breath, but his hands were still gripping to the sun kissed skin of Zoro's back. His eyes focused hard on the dark ones watching him. Trying to find any hint that this was some sort of joke.

When Zoro's gaze never broke from his own, a smirk curled Sanji's lips as he leaned against the strong wall of muscle that made up the green haired fighter. "This mean you've accepted your new position as my footstool?"

Zoro snorted softly and tucked the blonde hair behind the left ear. "Well, I did lose the bet. It wouldn't really be honorable if I backed out of it. As long as you only make use of that position in a private setting."

"Pfft, my footstool. I'm not gonna share." The smirk grew as that evil glimmer returned to his eyes. "So how'd you like my brilliant plan? I could almost hear your jaw hit the floor." Sanji teased playfully.

"What the hell ever. That wasn't a plan. There's no way you could have planned that. You were just lucky." Zoro scoffed as he looked away with a stubborn frown on his face.

Sanji grinned and poked at the faintly pink cheeks. "Jealous. I told you I would get rid of that shitty bird. All I had to do was wait until it tried to make a move on me. Distract it with some bread, then bam! Bye bye birdie. The brilliance is in simplicity, my dear Marimo." he cooed while leaning in to tug at a gold earring with his teeth.

Trying to ignore the strange tingling feeling that action provoked, Zoro gave a slight growl as his hands took hold of the narrow waist. "I knew you'd flaunt it."

"Mm.. I've got even more to flaunt now.." Sanji purred as he dove in for another kiss. It ended just as quickly as the chef pulled away and pushed the swordsman back. "Alright, get out of here. I've got a dinner to prepare, and you'll only distract me."

"That's always useful to know." Zoro mused, but didn't resist. He turned towards the kitchen door and could already hear the sound of chopping resume. "So when are you.."

"Tonight. After everyone's asleep."

With the promise of another encounter humming through his mind, Zoro smirked as he quietly left the kitchen. Suddenly everything seemed so much brighter. The crew was back to its normal dysfunctional self. That fuckin bird was finally gone for good. And he now had something new to fight for. Someone that would fight for him.

Things may have been done a bit hastily, but he was fine with that. He preferred the direct approach anyway. Sanji was about as direct as it got. He knew that he was in for something intense as this relationship continued. It made him excited. Eager to see what would develop.

His gaze turned towards the horizon as a content expression formed over his face. The sun shone a brilliant gold in the sky over the endless blue waters. The sight made him look down to the ring on his finger. "Gold and blue... I think I can live with that."

Eternity was looking a lot more appealing.

fjfjfjfjfjfjfjfThe End fjfjfjfjfjfjfjf


I can hear half of you saying "Oi! Where the smexy smex part?" No smexy for you! Haha!

Anywho, I've written a oneshot sequel for this. No, it's not the smexy smex part.

It takes place later on the series right after the Thriller Bark dealie.

The title is Hold Me Together

I was tempted to make it an epilogue for this, but I preferred to end this on a high note.

Until next time